Thank you Penguin Random House International for sending the ARC for ‘Ayesha At Last’ through Net Galley. It comes out on 4th June 2019.
A modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice for a new generation of love.
Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.
When a surprise engagement is announced between Khalid and Hafsa, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and the unsettling new gossip she hears about his family. Looking into the rumors, she finds she has to deal with not only what she discovers about Khalid, but also the truth she realizes about herself.
Pride and Prejudice (PnP) is one of my favorite classics and I have read it multiple times. A PnP retelling with a muslim cast is always fun to read and this is my second one for this year. I was highly disappointed with ‘Unmarriagable’, which made me hesitant to pick this book up. But I did and was pleasantly surprised.
Uzma does a great job of keeping true to the community she is writing about and I loved her characters (well some of them). Let’s look at what I liked first:
- The grandparents: they are the most adorable nana and nani ever! I love them together and individually.
- The interactions between Ayesha and Khalid: In every retelling of PnP and the original itself I have enjoyed reading the interaction between the two protagonists the most.
- Ayesha is a Hijabi: I am little biased in this one (being a hijabi myself) but it’s so refreshing to read about a girl who wears the hijab. Stories written from a hijabi’s perspective can show people that we (girls wearing hijabs) are more than that, we have hopes and dreams and most importantly we are not oppressed!
- Khalid’s sister: This was a shining star moment for the story! I don’t want to spoil much for the readers but her ending made me smile.
- The food: the parathas and curries and the love for Chai was so familiar and mouthwatering 😍😍
Things I didn’t like:
- The second half: after about 55% of the book, the story becomes like an Indian soap opera, with vicious aunties and dramatic revelations. It was not a page turner when that started happening and I finished it just out of curiosity.
- The side characters: All the young men Khalid interacts with. I don’t think they served any major purpose, Amir was a tad bit annoying and they could have been eliminated.
I rated this book 3.5 stars. Uzma’s writing is easy to read and her story flows smoothly. I would love to read what she writes next. ‘Ayesha At Last’ comes out on 4th June 2019 by Berkley Publishing Group in USA. A special shoutout to Berkley for always publishing diversified books!